Cambridge Animal Control Says Turkeys Aren’t Causing Trouble

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Despite recent reports that wild turkeys in Cambridge may be organizing for nefarious reasons and spreading through the city, Cambridge Animal Commission Animal Control Officer Alison Price said this week wild turkeys in Cambridge aren’t causing any problems.

Price said she’s heard from a few residents complaining about an influx of turkeys in Cambridge, but most calls the Animal Commission receive are for people reporting "lost" turkeys in places like Central and Harvard Square.

"There was one woman who claimed there were 5,100 turkeys in Cambridge," Price said. "There aren’t even 50 turkeys in Cambridge. The number is probably closer to 15 to 20."

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According to Mass.Gov, there are currently approximately 25,000 turkeys spread across Massachusetts.

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"Due to habitat loss, turkeys were extirpated from the state and the last known native bird was killed in 1851. In the 1970s, MassWildlife biologists trapped 37 turkeys in New York and released them in the Berkshires. The new flock grew in what was an ideal mix of agricultural and forested lands, and by the fall of 1978 the estimated population was about 1,000 birds."

Price called the turkey discussion a "non-issue" that could have a negative impact on the wildlife.

"Turkeys have been here for decades and they haven’t been acting any different, especially agressive," Price said. "They’re usually wary of humans and there’s very little risk for disease, more so if you’re talking about raising turkeys then eating them, but people aren’t really co-mingling with turkeys."

Through the years, Price, a 28-year veteran of the Animal Commission, said she’s responded to scattered calls involving turkeys.

"There was a call for an injured turkey last week and a turkey hit by a car last winter but most people call in saying they see a turkey ‘lost’ in Harvard Square or wherever," she said. "They’re not lost, they’re animals and I think people forget that."

About 15 years ago, Price said, there was a report of an aggressive turkey in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Watertown, but it was put down by animal control.

Price said turkeys play an important role in the ecosystem. She said wild turkeys will feed on almost any insects, small rodents, and many plants. This helps keep these populations from overcrowding others in the area.

This week, the Cambridge Animal Commission recommends released an info sheet to make your property less attractive to turkeys:

– Don’t feed the turkeys.

– Keep bird feeder areas clean.

– Cover windows or other reflective objects. The turkeys have a pecking order and they see the reflection of themselves and believe it is another turkey.

– Protect your gardens.

– Don’t let turkeys intimidate you. Don’t hesitate to scare or threaten them with loud noises, swatting with a broom or water sprayed from a hose.

– Educate your neighbors. It requires the efforts of the entire neighborhood to help to keep wild turkeys wild.

If you have any further questions you can also contact the Animal Commission at 617-349-4376.

Courtesy Photo / Mass.Gov

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